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Chief of Staff John Kelly Describes His Days Working for Trump

Michael Schmidt, of The New York Times, has added a 13,000 word profile of Donald Trump's second chief of staff, John Kelly, to the paperback edition of his book "Donald Trump v. The United States", which is about to be released. Iinterviewed by Schmidt, the former 4-star Marine general commented on working for Trump in the first two years of his term, from mid-2017 through 2018, which Schmidt recounted on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" January 12th:

"When Kelly came in as chief-of-staff, he thought that the problem around Trump was that he was not staffed properly and that they needed to create a process around him, and that's what the chaos of the first six months of the Trump administration was about. But when Kelly comes in as chief of staff he realizes that the problem is not just the fact that there's not a process and that he's not being staffed as well as he could, but that Trump himself was the problem, that Trump was far dumber, and immoral, and ignorant, and lazy than he ever thought he was.

"It wasn't the staff that was the issue, it wasn't the process that was the issue, it was Trump that was the issue, and that he needed to

spend as much time as he could with Trump to basically try and keep him on the rails. And Trump was so scatterbrained and disorganized and impulsive and egotistical that Kelly basically just had to try to get through the day with Trump. He had to manage the day. They couldn't think several

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days ahead. They couldn't think months or weeks ahead. They had to basically be prepared for Trump to come down from the residence around ten or eleven in the morning and be obsessed with whatever issue he had seen on television and have that dominate the rest of the day."

"In the early days of Kelly's tenure as chief of staff, Trump showed he had no grasp of the basics of American foreign policy: 'Why did we go to war with North Korea?'. Kelly explained the basis of the Korean War with the president. 'Why the [expletive] are we in NATO?'". Kelly explains it to him. Within a few days he becomes terrified because here he is the top staffer to the president of the United States and he's realizing that the president is far more limited and potentially dangerous. And at that point there was no one else to call. It was just him and Trump. He basically spends the next eighteen months trying to manage Trump as much as he could and no issue for Kelly typified the shortcomings of Trump and the potential dangers that he presented than North Korea."

Trump threatened North Korea "with fire and fury like the world has never seen" — just eight days after Kelly arrived at the White House at the end of July in 2021 — and warned at the United Nations a few weeks later that he would “totally destroy” the hermit kingdom. NBC News said Trump discussed using a nuclear weapon on North Korea in 2017 and blaming it on someone else, Schmidt's book says. He continued:

"I think the concerns in the West Wing at the time were that Kim, fearing that the United States was going to do something may try and do something himself. Or a general who was working for Kim would try and do something that he thought Kim would want."

From the book:

"[Kelly] told the president that engaging Kim could prove once and for all that he was 'the greatest salesman in the world'. In one-on-one conversations...Kelly tried to gently nudge Trump away from his incendiary language toward North Korea, telling him that he could unintentionally set off a conflict if his language was misread...'You're pushing him to prove he's a man', Kelly said to Trump. 'If you push him into a corner, he may strike out. You don't want to box him in'".

About the military Trump had said to Kelly about those killed or wounded in war, "Why the [expletive] do we think they're heroes? They're losers." (Kelly is the highest ranking military officer to have lost a child in the Iraq/Afghanistan wars.) In his reporting, Schmidt learned that Kelly told someone, "I didn't think they created people like this".

Joe Scarborough asks about how shallow Trump was when he selected people. "I remember during the transition talking to him and him talking about how Rex Tillerson was big and he looked like the role [of secretary of state]. He liked Mattis because of Mattis's nickname 'Mad Dog'. 'His name's Mad Dog. I love it. I'm going to get this guy'. He didn't like Petraeus because he thought Petraeus worked out too much. He was too drawn in. He weighed the same in high school that he weighed when Trump was talking to him."

Mika Brzezinski: "He was obsessed with how he worked out and thought that somehow it didn't look manly enough." Schmidt resumes:

"Trump is throwing around different possibilities for replacement of Tillerson and Pence, even as lar back as 2018 ...and is discussing that he says 'what do you think about Nikki Haley?'. What Trump says is that 'She doesn't look good for me'. He complains about her blotchy complexion. 'She has that skin thing'."


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